First stop on the road trip: Chicago, Illinois.

We stayed with a friend living near Lincoln Park, which is north of downtown Chicago. If you ever find yourself in Chicago, take the time to go up to this park! Don’t get me wrong, downtown Chicago is amazing, but this park definitely made my short experience in Chicago so worth it. Plus, you’ll get amazing views of the skyline.

Lincoln Park is home to the Chicago Zoo (free entry!), the Nature Museum, Nature and Wildlife Conservatory (also free!) and a second public beach (that’s right, second, the primary beach is closer to downtown.)

The conservatory is a beautiful greenhouse, with stunning species well composed alongside the industrious nature of the building:

Further south is a pavilion within an outdoor conserved landscape by the one and only Jeanne Gang:

We wrapped this morning up by walking along the beach; I still cannot get over how cool this urban beach is.

We spent the afternoon walking around downtown Chicago. Now let me just have this architecture nerd rant. I can’t believe every American architecture program doesn’t require their students to visit Chicago. There is such a beautifully rich history throughout the city’s built environment that made me re-admire this field.

Let me just go through a very quick history of the skyscraper. The combination of the Bessemer process which created stronger, lighter steel in the 1860’s and the Chicago Fire of 1871 forcing the city to rebuild lent itself to becoming the birthplace of the modern skyscraper.

In the latter half of the 19th century was the boom of department stores and a need for office high rises. We hadn’t really figured out how to build that high with traditional building materials (brick, concrete, wood). The Manadnock building was constructed in the 1890s, the tallest masonry structure today at 420 feet. In order to get this tall, look at how beefy the ground floor structure gets.

Around the same time, the Carson, Pririe and Scott Center was erected, using steel. Similar in height, the use of steel allowed for much larger windows and thinner walls. Steel and metal also made more ornamental appearances.

This metal ornamentation reappeared in the modern era as guys like Mies used structural sections as ornament.

Fast forward through the Sears Tower, and today we’re seeing many more experimental forms.

All of this just from a day in Chicago. See you soon, beautiful city.

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